Does treatment (nonoperative and operative) improve the two-year quality of life in patients with adult symptomatic lumbar scoliosis: a prospective multicenter evidence-based medicine study

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2009 Sep 15;34(20):2171-8. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181a8fdc8.


Study design: Prospective observational cohort study with matched and unmatched comparisons. Level II evidence.

Objective: The purpose of this study is to compare results of adult symptomatic lumbar scoliosis (ASLS) patients treated nonoperatively and operatively. This is an evidence-based prospective multicenter study to answer the question of whether nonoperative and operative treatment improves the quality of life (QOL) in these patients at 2-year follow-up.

Summary of background data: Only 1 paper in the peer-reviewed published data directly addresses this question. That paper suggested that operative treatment was more beneficial than nonoperative care, but the limitations relate to historical context (all patients treated with Harrington implants) and the absence of validated patient-reported QOL (QOL) data.

Methods: This study assesses 160 consecutively enrolled patients (ages 40-80 years) with baseline and 2-year follow-up data from 5 centers. Lumbar scoliosis without prior surgical treatment was defined as a minimum Cobb angle of 30 degrees (mean: 54 degrees for patients in this study). All patients had either an Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) score of 20 or more (mean: 33) or Scoliosis Research Society (SRS) domain scores of 4 or less in pain, function, and self-image (mean: 3.2) at baseline. Pretreatment and 2-year follow-up data collected prospectively included basic radiographic parameters, complications and SRS QOL, ODI, and Numerical Rating Scale back and leg pain scores.

Results: At 2 years, follow-up on the operative patients was 95% and for the nonoperative patients it was 45%. The demographics for the nonoperative patients who were followed up for 2 years versus those who were lost to follow-up were identical. The operative cohort significantly improved in all QOL measures. The nonoperative cohort did not improve and nonsignificant decline in QOL scores was common. At minimum 2-year follow-up, operative patients outperformed nonoperative patients by all measures.

Conclusion: It would appear from this study that common nonoperative treatments do not change the QOL in patients with ASLS at 2-year follow-up. However, operative treatment does significantly improve the QOL for this group of patients. Our conclusions are limited by the fact that we were only able to follow-up 45% of the nonoperative group to 2-year follow-up, in spite of extensive efforts on our part to accomplish such.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain Management
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Scoliosis / complications
  • Scoliosis / physiopathology
  • Scoliosis / therapy*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spinal Fusion*
  • Treatment Outcome